Sunday Sermon for August 7, 2011, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: 1Ki 19:9a, 11-13a; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

In the second reading today St. Paul makes an astonishing statement saying that he could wish that he was accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his own people. The context of this statement is the anguish he felt in his heart every day because He knew the Lord and the salvation which comes from Christ, but his own people, for the most part, rejected Jesus as their Messiah.

The importance of this for us is that there are so many people today who have walked away from Jesus and we have to ask ourselves if we feel that daily anguish in our hearts because of these people. What is necessary for us is that we have a true love for souls and that we want everyone to be saved. We need to be careful because it is fairly easy to say that we want everyone to be saved, but it is a completely different reality to have such charity for souls that there is sadness and even anguish because people do not know Jesus or have fallen away from Him.

I know many parents who understand what this daily anguish of the heart is about because their own children have fallen away, their grandchildren have not been baptized or they no longer go to Mass. This kind of sorrow, and the love for their family members, leads these parents and grandparents to pray and to sacrifice for those they love. This is excellent, but what about the rest? Do we pray for others to convert? What about our enemies, those we dislike or those who dislike us? What about people in foreign countries? What about those who have fallen headlong into sinful lifestyles? There are so many that we casually tend to write off, ignore or just never even think about.

St. Paul understood that God had given him graces to preach to the Gentiles and brought about the conversions of thousands of people. However, he was not able to preach to the Jews. I would be willing to bet that he would have preferred preaching to his own people, but given his former circumstances as the star pupil of the greatest Rabbi ever, he knew that he could not go to the Jews because they would not be willing to hear anything from him. Still, although he was not able to preach to the Jews, he still carried the love for them in his heart as well as his desire that they would convert and be saved.

Perhaps the Lord has not called you to go out and preach. Even so, you can still carry in your heart a love for the people around you as well as for those you have never even met before. All of us are able to pray for others, even if we are not able to preach to them. For those around us, whether that be our family members, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers or our acquaintances, every one of us can be an example of virtue and of living out a truly Catholic life. Many of you know that your family members will not listen to you if you try speaking to them. Your example can still speak loud and clear, even if your voice has been rejected.

This becomes even more crucial when we see in the first reading that God will be found in the whisper. Elijah goes to Mount Horeb, or Sinai, where God worked so many signs and wonders among the people. Now the Lord is found in the tiny whisper. We often want God to work in the lives of our family members in extraordinary ways. He certainly has the ability to do so, but most often, because these people already know Him, He works more quietly, perhaps through our example. If this is the case, the extraordinary that we seek must be found in our love as St. Therese says: to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

God still does extraordinary things in our world and in the lives of individuals. In the Gospel, Jesus walked on the waters as a means of demonstrating to His Apostles that He is God. I think, given the world situation today, that we are going to see the Lord intervene in ways that have not been seen before. This is because He loves the souls of those He has created and desires their conversions. In the meantime, He seems somewhat silent and content to work through the whisper of our prayers and example. These are necessary not only for the grace to come to these people, but so that they will know to whom they can turn for help once the Lord touches their hearts. This can only happen when we have true charity for them in our hearts.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit